February 18, 2018

Signs that no one gives a damn about the Olympics anymore.

From the front page of New York Magazine:

Elsewhere on that front page is:
NBC Declared Wrong Olympic Winner in Women’s Super-G
And gold medalist Ester Ledecka pulled off a massive upset.
If NBC can't even bother to get it right...

I myself am watching quite a bit of the Olympics. I use the DVR to skip over most of it, but I like zeroing in on the best skaters and snowboarders. I wish NBC would do what I seem to remember the Olympics broadcasters doing decades ago: Focus on the individuals, not the countries, and stress that this is a place where what matters is the individual and the only question is who is the best in the world. Ironically, that's the best propaganda for America, not this continual enthusiasm for whoever comes from America.

I approve of this satire:

This is sweet:

I'm sorry. I don't care enough to read the article.

"Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?" by Callum Borchers (at WaPo).

I did take a look at the top-rated comment: "If President Obama had had an affair, it would have mattered a lot to these same people. Hypocrites without honor, all of them."

If President Obama had an affair, it would matter because we have an opinion of him as a man who has been an excellent husband. It would have mattered to people who love him more than those who hate him.

Trump's affairs don't conflict with much of anything anybody thinks of him. You can't use them because those who want to use them are not those who are genuinely upset about the affairs but people who are looking for ways to attack the person they already hate and anyone who likes Trump can easily see that about you and moves on. That's not hypocrisy, that's competence — resistance to trolling.

Trump's tweet this morning is reading my mind.

Yes, yes, yes, exactly.

Aptest Trump tweet ever.

"Everything seems to go to seed along the Gulf: walls stain, windows rust. Curtains mildew. Wood warps. Air conditioners cease to function."

"In our room at the Edgewater Gulf Hotel, where the Mississippi Broadcasters’ Convention was taking place, the air conditioner in the window violently shook and rattled every time it was turned on. The Edgewater Gulf is an enormous white hotel which looks like a giant laundry, and has the appearance of being on the verge of condemnation. The swimming pool is large and unkempt, and the water smells of fish. Behind the hotel is a new shopping center built around an air-conditioned mall, and I kept escaping there, back into midstream America."

A passage from a book I'm reading that came back to me as we were talking about the South in the middle of the night. The book is "South and West: From a Notebook" by Joan Didion. A new reprint came out last month, but it tells the story of a road trip through the Gulf South that she made in 1970 (and a second trip in the west in 1976).

Here's another passage:
In New Orleans in June the air is heavy with sex and death, not violent death but death by decay, overripeness, rotting, death by drowning, suffocation, fever of unknown etiology. The place is physically dark, dark like the negative of a photograph, dark like an X-ray: the atmosphere absorbs its own light, never reflects light but sucks it in until random objects glow with a morbid luminescence. The crypts above ground dominate certain vistas. In the hypnotic liquidity of the atmosphere all motion slows into choreography, all people on the street move as if suspended in a precarious emulsion, and there seems only a technical distinction between the quick and the dead. 

Taking the Russian troll test: "I first had to write something about, 'What do you think about vegetarians?' or something like that."

"Then it was, 'What do you think of Hillary Clinton? What chances does she have to win in the U.S. election?' You had to write at great length about this. … The main thing was showing that you are able to show that you can represent yourself as an American. … I failed the test because you had to know English perfectly."

Said Marat Mindiyarov, interviewed by the Washington Post in "A former Russian troll speaks: 'It was like being in Orwell’s world.'"

The quote is confusing with that headline. Mindiyarov was not a troll who trolled Americans. He wanted to be one of those trolls. He "would see them on smoking breaks. … They were totally modern-looking young people, like hipsters, wearing fashionable clothes with stylish haircuts and modern devices. They were so modern that you wouldn’t think they could do something like this."

He didn't get the job because he he didn't "know English perfectly," though if you read the other article WaPo published about Mindiyarov — "The 21st-century Russian sleeper agent is a troll with an American accent" — he didn't pass the test because "it wasn’t clear if his shortcoming was imperfect English or failing to bash Clinton."

WaPo makes 2 articles out of this one guy who didn't even get the job, and on the face of the clear text of 2 articles published on the same day, it contradicts itself. Fail!

Anyway, the Orwellian environment Mindiyarov encountered was as a troll writing in Russian on Russian news articles to fool Russians. He — this propagandist whose job was lying — tells the Washington Post that he quit that job — "for moral reasons. I was ashamed to work there."

And we're supposed to believe him.... why? Is he trolling the Washington Post and its readers now? They're so damned gullible! Me, I question everybody. The sad troll who longs to be a young, modern-looking hipster. (He's 43.) The Washington Post, cranking out articles about the "sophistication and ambition" of the Russian troll operation.

The Russian trolls who supposedly could imitate Americans couldn't even really do it. Look at this one:

That's just a mess! Americans don't say "a Satan." Satan is one specific character. And "her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is" should be "her crimes and lies have proved just how evil she is." And it doesn't make sense to have Satan say "If I win, Clinton wins." It should be "If Clinton wins, I win." I think! It's stupidly confusing. And that graphic! Jesus looks like Derek Zoolander. I guess somebody decided he needed to look white, but I've never seen an "American" Jesus that white (or with that much contrast between skin and hair color). Also Jesus looks tentative and Satan looks like a superhero or wrestler. And "Press 'Like' to Help Jesus Win" seems satirical.

I think there are plenty of Americans using social media taking shots at our candidates and they're doing it on their own or for pay and with much more skill and in greater numbers. These people dilute the Russians, and it's just a lot of free speech about politics. If anything, the Russians help us all become more skeptical, because they get little things wrong and you become uneasy and therefore more aware that we're swimming in propaganda.

And I suspect the Washington Post loathes social media — whether it's full of trolls or sincere Americans (and sincere foreigners!) having our say. It competes with the Washington Post's business model. I presume the Washington Post would prefer to be your go-to source for information and opinion and to be venerated as an oracle of truth. All of social media interferes with the interests of the Washington Post. And it serves WaPo's interests to scare us all about Russian trolls in social media.

And this is where, I think, the Russian trolls have some chance of success — as a tool of mainstream media in a plot against free speech in social media.

February 17, 2018

At the Demand-Superior-Walls Café...

Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 2.26.40 PM

... you can talk about whatever you want. These walls have ears. No one says that anymore. All the trite phrases that have gone away. Occasionally you notice one. Remember when people said Let's run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes?

Anyway, that image is a screenshot from Meade's computer the other day. I don't know if some algorithm picked up his interest in Trump's wall or what. It was last Tuesday, the day of the Fat Tuesday Café — pictured in the screen grab. You may remember that, in the comments, FIDO said:
I hadn't noticed it before, but the blog has an Ashley Madison ad on it. It is that google has determined that I am a pig, a random placement, or has Ms. Althouse become open minded on infidelity?
And I said:
Yeah, it's a sophisticated algorithm. If you're getting Ashley Madison ads, it says something about what Google knows about you.

Me, I'm getting an ad for a $1900 Chloe handbag.
And Meade said:
The only ad I'm seeing now is for something called "Superior Walls." No, I'm not a white supremacist. Yes, I want Trump to build the wall. Waiting for my head to spin.
You may remember that Trump said "That wall will go up so fast, your head will spin."

Talk about anything though. This is a café.

That means I need to add a reminder to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon. I couldn't find the $1900 Chloe handbag there. But you can buy the movie "The Wall" ("A deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them"), Wall Control 30-P-3232GV Galvanized Steel Pegboard Pack, an iRobot Virtual Wall Barrier (to control your Roomba), and Pink Floyd's "The Wall."

"Is There an Obstruction Case against President Trump?"

If anyone can analyze the hell out of that question, it's Andrew McCarthy. Let me express my awe and thanks.

And let me point also to this column of his from a couple days ago, "What Did Comey Tell President Trump about the Steele Dossier?," which he links to in the new column with this mind-bending summary:
In a column on Thursday, I argued that the Obama administration saw the Russia probe as an opportunity to paralyze President Trump. As I noted in the column, the motivation for this could have been sinister or public-spirited — how you see it probably depends on what you think of Obama and Trump. President Trump’s political opponents would have seen the Russia probe as a chance to strangle his capacity to govern and pursue his agenda; some investigators who suspected that the disturbing allegations in the Steele dossier were true, even if they had not and probably could not be proved, may have harbored good-faith concern that Trump could be blackmailed by Russia.

Regardless of the motivation, the scheme to sustain the Russia investigation even after Obama left office and Trump was in a position to end it had three parts: (1) important information about the investigation needed to be withheld from the new president; (2) Trump had to be led to believe he was not under investigation (even though he was central to the investigation) so that he would not feel threatened by the investigation; and (3) Trump had to be admonished about respecting the independence of law-enforcement, to instill the fear that if he invoked his constitutional authority to shut down the investigation, he would be accused of obstruction.

This audacious strategy worked for four months, but it was done in by its core contradiction: It called for informing the president that he was not a suspect when he clearly was....
Keep reading.

"In that 25th hour, I’m pretty sure I heard certain words — 'god,' 'money,' 'demons,''warships' — but I’m entirely confident that I was hearing an unknowable prayer..."

"... the kind that makes the forward-march of time go greasy and slack, the kind that lifts us out of the real world and plunges us into a place we’ve never been, together. 'Y’all know what I’m saying?' [Sir] E.U asked near the end, and even if you didn’t, you absolutely did."

From "This D.C. rapper just performed a 25-hour concert. Near the finish, things got surreal" (WaPo). We're told "Sir E.U was filibustering in the subbasement of his own brain," and I would like to point out that he went on more than 3 times as long as Nancy Pelosi did the other day when she set the record for longest speech in the House of Representatives, though to give Nancy her due, it must be said that she never went to the bathroom. E.U., we're told, did go to the bathroom and just wore his wireless microphone right in there.

But was Nancy filibustering in the subbasement of her own brain? Did Nancy devolve into unknowable prayer and make the forward-march of time go greasy and slack and lift us out of the real world and plunge us into a place we’ve never been?

Moderation woes.

We've been having trouble with moderating comments for a few days. As you may know, if you comment on a post more than 2 days old, it doesn't go up until we approve it. But we haven't been able to get to the moderation page, so whatever is there is just helplessly waiting. Sorry, but I can't do anything about that, at least for now. If this continues, it will mean that on older posts, comments are essentially closed.

We're also unable to get to the spam page, so that means that we can't liberate comments that don't belong there. I know there is at least one regular commenter who has been singled out by the spam filter, and I'm especially sorry about that problem. It's not that we don't care and are not trying to get proper comments out of the spam filter. It's that we can't.

"There were very drawn out versions of songs where Manson mostly rambled on about our lack of love and other bizarre things. After an hour and fifteen minutes of this, he threw his microphone and left the stage."

From "Marilyn Manson Cuts Concert Short After Meltdown Onstage/The rocker rambled a freestyle jam and repeated demands for applause, while performing at the Paramount in New York on Thursday night."

I'm fascinated by that phrase "our lack of love and other bizarre things."

"In the past, Mr. Trump said, when dealing with a dishonest rival 'there was nothing you can do other than sue. Which I’ve done... But it’s a long process.'"

"Now, he simply tweets. Caustically, colorfully and repeatedly. Suddenly, he said of his foes, 'I have more power than they do. I can let people know that they were a fraud... I can let people know that they have no talent, that they didn’t know what they’re doing. You have a voice.'... Mr. Trump... is an improbable virtuoso of the tweet...."

From "Pithy, Mean and Powerful: How Donald Trump Mastered Twitter for 2016" in — of all places — the New York Times. Back in October 2015.
... Mr. Trump has mastered Twitter in a way no candidate for president ever has, unleashing and redefining its power as a tool of political promotion, distraction, score-settling and attack — and turning a 140-character task that other candidates farm out to young staff members into a centerpiece of his campaign.
"Farm out" to their troll farm.
In the process, he has managed to fulfill a vision, long predicted but slow to materialize, sketched out a decade ago by a handful of digital campaign strategists: a White House candidacy that forgoes costly, conventional methods of political communication and relies instead on the free, urgent and visceral platforms of social media.
The writer is Michael Barbaro, whom you might know from "The Daily" podcast (at the NYT), which I listen to every weekday. It's great, and I am enjoying happening upon this old article of his, which has special resonance today as we're called upon to fear the national security threat posed by the Russian troll farm. Not only did (and does) Trump do his own tweets, he understands Americans enough to say things that reach us in places Russians don't know about.

What got me to that old article? I clicked on a tag on the previous post, which took me to my old posts containing the name Robert Barnes, including an October '15 post linking to "Pithy, Mean and Powerful...."

"Mueller’s unprecedented prosecution raises three novel arguments: first, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act..."

"... second, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen list their source and expenditure of funding to the Federal Election Commission; and third, that mistakes on visa applications constitute 'fraud' on the State Department. All appear to borrow from the now-discredited 'honest services' theories Mueller’s team previously used in corporate and bribery cases, cases the Supreme Court overturned for their unconstitutional vagueness. The indictment raises serious issues under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and due process rights under the Fifth Amendment."

From "Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for Chris Steele?" by Robert Barnes, who observes that Mueller chose targets who will never be brought to trial and therefore knew he was using a legal theory that would not be tested in court.

"Michigan is one of more than 40 states where prisoners can be forced to pay for the cost of their incarceration..."

"Laws that allow the government to charge prisoners 'room and board' or 'cost of care' fees have proliferated in recent decades, as states charge inmates and parolees for everything from medical care, clothing and meals to police transport, public defense fees, drug testing and electronic monitoring.... During the last fiscal year, Michigan collected some $3.7 million from 294 prisoners, who account for just a fraction of the state’s nearly 40,000 inmates. Around the country, some 10 million people owe $50 billion in fees stemming from their arrest or imprisonment.... H. Bruce Franklin, author of 'Prison Literature in America,' said that if prisoners who publish books are forced to forfeit their advances and royalties to the state, it could dissuade aspiring writers who are incarcerated from seeking to publish at all."

From "A Prisoner Got a Book Deal. Now the State Wants Him to Pay for His Imprisonment" (NYT).

The article is about Curtis Dawkins, whom I blogged about here, last July.

"For the past year, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a profound national security threat..."

... write the editors of the NYT in "Stop Letting the Russians Get Away With It, Mr. Trump." They're pointing at the new indictment as if it makes it obvious that the Russians already did something that amounts to a profound national security threat. But it's far from obvious. In fact, I can't see it at all.
On Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, filed criminal charges of fraud and identity theft against 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations, all alleged to have operated a sophisticated influence campaign intended to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”
So... they engaged in speech and they meant to "sow discord." I can't see that as a profound national security threat. If we were to adopt that view and act upon it, there would be a profound threat to freedom of speech.
["Specialists" at the Internet Research Agency] posed as Americans and created false identities to set up social media pages and groups aimed at attracting American audiences. 
Another day on the internet — people pretended to be what they are not. If you're going to assume that readers of the internet are so naive as to take the crap that pops up on line at face value, you're making the argument that we can't even have a democracy at all. People are too stupid to vote. But we're on the alert — even when we read the New York Times — that somebody's always trying to con us.
The broad outlines of this interference have been known publicly for a while, but the sheer scope of the deception detailed in Friday’s indictments is breathtaking.
Eh. I'm still breathing.
By the spring of 2016, the operation had zeroed in on supporting Mr. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton. 
Because it was more chaos-y. So what?
The Internet Research Agency alone had a staff of 80 and a monthly budget of $1.25 million. On the advice of a real, unnamed grass-roots activist from Texas, it had focused its efforts on swing states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.

Staffers bought ads with messages like “Hillary is a Satan,” “Ohio Wants Hillary 4 Prison” and “Vote Republican, Vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment!”
So these geniuses produced more of the same junk that you see all the time on the internet. It was like having 80 more deplorables chattering. How can that be "a profound national security threat"?!
They created hundreds of social media accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites to confuse and anger people about sensitive issues like immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement — in some cases gaining hundreds of thousands of followers.
Hundreds! Thousands! Who the hell cares? Is this column written for readers who have never spent any time on the internet? This editorial is doing the very thing it decries, trying to "confuse and anger people about sensitive issues."
They staged rallies while pretending to be American grass-roots organizations.
Another day at a protest. So what? We have our rallies in America, and if you go to one, as a competent citizen, you should wonder, who are these people really? If you went to a Vietnam War rally back in the day, and it turned out it was staged by communists and not loyal Americans, you'd be an anti-free-speech villain if you wanted those identity-hiding communists arrested for threatening national security.
A poster at one “pro-Clinton” rally in July 2016 read “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims,” along with a fabricated quote attributed to Mrs. Clinton: “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”
Sneaky, yes, but profound threat to national security? It's just a stupid lie, and if people aren't smart enough to figure that out, then how can we be trusted with the vote?
As the election drew nearer, they tried to suppress minority turnout and promoted false allegations of Democratic voter fraud. The specialist running one of the organization’s Facebook accounts, called “Secured Borders,” was criticized for not publishing enough posts and was told that “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”
What's the point here? That in the future these people might actually accomplish their nefarious plan to publish more posts?? That's the profound threat to national security?
After the election, they continued to spread confusion and chaos, staging rallies both for and against Mr. Trump, in one case on the same day and in the same city.
This column is continuing to spread confusion and chaos, but I nevertheless persist in keeping my wits about me. I'm not buying it. Just as I don't believe that Hillary Clinton said "Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom," I don't believe these piddling social media posts and real-world rallies are a profound thread to national security.
All along, they took steps to cover their tracks by stealing the identities of real Americans, opening accounts on American-based servers and lying about what their money was being used for... [A] specialist named Irina Kaverzina emailed a family member: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.” Ms. Kaverzina continued, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

Fake news, indeed.
Yes, fake news, indeed. "For the past year, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a profound national security threat" and based on the indictment — as laid out in this editorial meant to show how wrong he was — I'd say he was right. And I'm disturbed at how stupid the NYT editors seem to think its readers are. It's almost forgivable that they think people could be so easily confused by some Russian rallies and social media posts. Forgivable, but still deserving of the Trump taunt: fake news.

"To the extent that there is a generational divide, it may have to do with the fact that many older women are still wary about the internet, which leads them to not only miss the context of a longstanding feminist internet tradition of ironic misandry..."

"... but also to overlook the more nuanced chatter happening among younger women on social media and digital sites.... And yet most of the disagreement has to do with age-old ideas about sex, power and the function of social movements...

Writes Nona Willis Aronowitz in "The Feminist Pursuit of Good Sex" (NYT). Aronowitz is the daughter of Ellen Willis, "who in a 1981 essay in The Village Voice asked a question that now looms over #MeToo 40 years later: 'Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?'"

Aronowitz says:
My connection to this complex intellectual heritage is at the heart of why I find the prevailing narrative about #MeToo’s generational split baffling and harmful. Here’s how the story goes: Older critics, flattened into “Second Wave feminist has-beens,” are accusing the movement of becoming increasingly anti-sex, anti-agency and anti-nuance. Younger women, also known as “Twitter feminists,” are accusing these critics of being bitter establishmentarians, unable to cede ground to new ideas. They’re both wrong, but so is this tired mothers-and-daughters framing, which threatens to derail substantive debate in favor of a catfight narrative.
I note the assertion that both sides are missing nuance. The older women think the younger ones are "increasingly anti-sex, anti-agency and anti-nuance." And the younger ones think the older ones don't follow "the more nuanced chatter" of the internet so they don't grok "the feminist internet tradition of ironic misandry."

If only we could be more nuanced, maybe we could meet in the middle. But everybody's always only seeing the lack of nuance on the other side. You get the self-flatterer imperiously telling other people to compromise. But Aronowitz seems to be more of an onlooker, trying to mediate. I look at  Memorandum's River and see there's no significant internet talk about her column. I look at the NYT's own "most-emailed," "most viewed," and even "recommended for you" lists and don't find it. Even with "Good Sex" in the title, it's not getting traction.

From the Wikipedia article on Ellen Willis:
Willis was known for her feminist politics and was a member of New York Radical Women and subsequently co-founder in early 1969 with Shulamith Firestone of the radical feminist group Redstockings.... Starting in 1979, Willis wrote a number of essays that were highly critical of anti-pornography feminism, criticizing it for what she saw as its sexual puritanism and moral authoritarianism, as well as its threat to free speech. These essays were among the earliest expressions of feminist opposition to the anti-pornography movement in what became known as the feminist sex wars. Her 1981 essay, Lust Horizons: Is the Women's Movement Pro-Sex? is the origin of the term, "pro-sex feminism."

Willis was the first popular music critic for The New Yorker, between 1968 and 1975... In 2011, the first collection of Willis’s music reviews and essays, Out of the Vinyl Deeps (University of Minnesota Press), arrived. It was edited by her daughter Nona Willis-Aronowitz. Ellen Willis "celebrated the seriousness of pleasure and relished the pleasure of thinking seriously," a review in The New York Times said.
Is anyone celebrating the seriousness of pleasure anymore? Even Nona Willis-Aronowitz — seemingly dedicated to her mother's legacy — left off the "Lust Horizons" part of the title of that 1981 essay. She calls it simply "Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?" — perhaps because few readers get the reference to "Lost Horizon" these days...
... but I think it's because "lust" — a popular and positive word in the 1970s — has become ugly again — returned to its stature as one of "The 7 Deadly Sins"....

The question are feminists pro-sex? becomes — with nuance —are feminists pro-good-sex? The easy answer then is yes, but we're left with the difficult question is how to find good sex when her own daughter edits out Ellen Willis's word "lust"?

ADDED: To be fair, Aronowitz does, in her first paragraph, call herself "lusty," but she's speaking of herself in the past and "before I’d learned much about feminism." She was, she says, "fascinated by what we now call the 1970s 'golden era' of pornography... Being a lusty, modern woman, I was enthralled."

But "lusty" doesn't mean "lustful." It means merry and cheerful or hearty and vigorous. "The Turk... gave him two or three lusty kicks on the seat of honour," wrote Edmund Burke in his memoir.

The word that means "Full of, imbued with, or characterized by, lust or unlawful desires; pertaining to, marked by, or manifesting sensual desire; libidinous" (OED) is "lustful."

February 16, 2018

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The indictment is odd, to say the least."

"Its very first paragraph recites that it is against the law for foreign nationals to spend money to influence US elections, or for agents of foreign countries to engage in political activities without registering. But no one is charged with these crimes. Instead, the indictment is devoted mostly to charging a 'conspiracy to defraud the United States.' Normally, that would refer to defrauding the U.S. out of, say, $10,000 in Medicare benefits. Its application to the 2016 election seems dubious. Beyond that, the indictment charges relatively minor offenses: bank fraud (opening accounts in false names) and identity theft.... The indictment says nothing about how effective the Russians’ efforts were, but their magnitude was rather small. At the height of the campaign in September 2016, the campaign’s budget was only $1,250,000 per month. Compare that with the $100 million that Jeb Bush spent, or the $1.2 billion that Hillary Clinton reportedly ran through."

Writes John Hinderaker.

I note that the indictment speaks of the "ORGANIZATION" with its different departments including a graphics department and that "Defendants and their co-conspirators issued or received guidance on: ratios of text, graphics, and video to use in posts...." Could someone point to examples of these graphics? I'm interested in graphics and how graphics might leap over our defenses and hit us in some mysterious emotional place, but what graphics did the Russians come up with? Wasn't it just crap like this:

"The F.B.I.’s admission that it did not act on a tip that Mr. Cruz had a 'desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts,' could open up a new avenue of attack for political opponents seeking to discredit the bureau’s work...."

"After the shooting, conservative news media said that the F.B.I. could have prevented the attack if it had not been spending so much time looking into Russian election interference.... This is not the first time that the F.B.I. has come under fire for being aware of a threat and failing to stop an attack. Congress criticized the bureau for failing to stop the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, where the shooter was known to the F.B.I. The F.B.I. also knew of one of the brothers who carried out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but did not stop that attack. After those fumbles, F.B.I. investigators compared themselves to hockey goalies, who are fielding a relentless barrage of pucks. Sometimes, they said, they cannot keep things from making the net."

From "F.B.I. Was Warned of Florida Suspect’s Desire to Kill but Did Not Act" (NYT).

ADDED: Here's the FBI's statement. Excerpt:
The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting. Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life. The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken. We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time.

"The special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday with illegally using social media platforms to sow political discord..."

The NYT reports, as I'm sure you already know. Sorry to take so long putting up a post, but I sense that you've begun the conversation in another thread. We were out running errands and walking on Picnic Point, but we listened to the news on the car radio [tuned to Fox News TV]. The newswoman exclaimed "Wow! Wow! Wow!" but I did not see the big wow. So there were some Russians trolling social media. Or is the "wow" that nobody on the Trump team is said to have done anything wrong?
“The nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists,” Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, said in a brief news conference on Friday afternoon at the Justice Department....

All were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft....

The goal of the Russian operation, which was dubbed the “translator project” and began in 2014 with a monthly budget of $1.25 million, was “information warfare against the United States,” the indictment alleges.
"Information warfare." In other words: speech.
Some of the Russians, posing as Americans and seeking a coordinated effort, “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and other political activists.” They communicated with members of the campaign, volunteers, supporters and grass-roots workers, court papers show.
"Unwitting" — none of the Trump people knew.
Individuals involved in the conspiracy traveled to and around the United States, visiting at least eight states, court papers show, and worked with an unidentified American. That person advised them to focus their efforts on what they viewed as “purple” election battleground states, including Colorado, Virginia and Florida, the indictment said.
Ha! The "person" forgot Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — just like the Clinton campaign.
The indictment cites a series of political advertisements paid for by the Russians, all of them against Mrs. Clinton and in favor of Mr. Trump. “Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is,” one advertisement created by the Russians stated.
That's ludicrously unsophisticated. Doesn't even sound American. Who says "a Satan"? Either you are Satan — the one character — or you're one of his minions — and the word would be "demon" or "devil." Why did these people bother, and why should we care?
While the indictment does not directly accuse the Russian government of running the operation, American intelligence agencies have said that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin authorized a multipronged campaign to boost Mr. Trump’s political chances and damage Mrs. Clinton.
In other words, Putin is off the hook, according to the indictment, and the Times has to go back to "American intelligence agencies have said" to breathe life into the Putin monster.

When Donald Trump wrote "I've read John Updike, I've read Orhan Pamuk, I've read Philip Roth."

An AP writer has dug up a letter Trump wrote to the NYT in 2005 in response to a review of a collection of New Yorker profiles written by Mark Singer. The review said:
The only instance in which Singer throws and lands a sucker punch is in a 1997 profile of the pre-"Apprentice" Donald Trump, in which his tone becomes a little arch. That Trump is already a caricature of a caricature makes him too easy a target, with neither the foot speed nor the wit to defend himself. A harder thing to do, perhaps impossible, would have been to find the one lonely component of Trump's character that wasn't manufactured as a brand strategy. It is a small quibble, certainly, as most New Yorkers, including me, would readily climb the arch in Washington Square to drop a flowerpot filled with nasturtiums on Trump's astonishing head if given half a chance to do so.
Trump wrote (or had someone write over his signature):
I can remember when Tina Brown was in charge of The New Yorker and a writer named Mark Singer interviewed me for a profile. He was depressed. I was thinking, O.K., expect the worst. Not only was Tina Brown dragging The New Yorker to a new low, this writer was drowning in his own misery, which could only put me in a skeptical mood regarding the outcome of their combined interest in me. Misery begets misery, and they were a perfect example of this credo.